Joe Biden To Return To Los Angeles For Star-Filled Fundraiser Amid Democrats’ Amped Up Anxieties And Calls To Action

President Joe Biden’s return to Los Angeles on Saturday for a star-filled fundraiser may be as much to rally and invigorate Hollywood donors and supporters as it is to make a big money show before quarter’s end.

Biden will appear with his predecessor, Barack Obama, in a conversation with Jimmy Kimmel, along with a lineup that includes George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Also on the bill are Jason Bateman, Jack Black, Kathryn Hahn and Sheryl Lee Ralph.

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Tickets are going for $250 to $250,000, but the campaign has been blasting out an ongoing stream of fundraising texts signed by the boldfaced names involved to enter a contest to win a trip to the event. The contest, a means to drive up small-dollar donations, was popularized in 2012, when Clooney hosted Obama at his home for a reelection fundraiser.

Trump “is protected by far-right mouthpieces and billionaire mega-donors who’d gladly eat crab cakes while the world burns if it means they will pay less in taxes,” Kimmel said in his pitch, suggesting a donation of $40.

The event is similar in approach to a March fundraiser in New York, featuring Biden, Obama and former President Bill Clinton in a conversation moderated by Stephen Colbert, along with other celebrities. That event raised $26 million, setting a high bar for this event.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is campaign co-chair, said in a statement that at the L.A. event “we are going to see an unprecedented and record setting turn out from the media and entertainment world. The enthusiasm and commitment for Biden/Harris couldn’t be stronger. We all understand this is the most important election of our lifetime.”

As of Thursday evening, there were just a few dozen seats left in the 7,100-seat Peacock Theater, according to a ticket map of the venue, but tickets appeared to have dwindled today.

Biden’s fundraising swing — his fourth to Los Angeles since announcing his reelection bid — comes amid plenty of anxiety among Democrats. Polling sites like Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight show a slight Trump lead, even as some recent individual surveys showed some improvement for Biden after the former president’s conviction. As one longtime industry politico put it, “Everybody is concerned and genuinely worried.”

The real focus — and edginess — among many in the industry’s donor class is on the June 27 CNN debate. The unusually early general election debate is being looked upon as a test for Biden just as the State of the Union was.

The bed-wetting among Democrats is legendary, but in the nation’s creative community, it tends to come with plenty of ideas on just what the campaign should be doing. Those opinions happen even when a candidate has a discernible lead.

Others believe that the stakes of the race — and the prospect of a return of Donald Trump to the White House — have helped instill a sense of urgency. Mathew Littman, a former speechwriter for Biden who leads a group of creative professionals engaged in Democratic politics, called The Working Group, said that there has been uptick in their meeting attendance. About 50 took part in a Zoom call this week, double the normal level.

“People are anxious to find out what they can do to be more helpful,” Littman said, adding that includes creating ads of their own, hosting events or committing to canvassing in swing states.

The group does not coordinate with the campaign but, as it did in 2020, also is planning to organize trips to certain states like Nevada and Michigan this cycle.

A difference from 2020: The upcoming debate may be driving people to get involved earlier, Littman said, as well as the view that there is “no time to waste” because “democracy is on the line.”

“There is an expectation that things will ramp up earlier,” Littman said. “There is a lot of anxiety and anxiousness about this election. People are asking, ‘How can I help the campaign? How can I help save democracy.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, showbiz has continued to shower money on Democrats at the federal level, giving $26.3 million this cycle to $5.1 million for Republicans, an 83% to 16% split. In the entire cycle in 2020, the industry gave $104.2 million to Democrats and $12.8 million to Republicans, a split of 89% to 11%.

Trump was in Los Angeles last weekend for his own fundraising swing, including stops in Beverly Hills and Newport Beach. Still, as Republicans have done for years, the Trump campaign is targeting Biden’s event on Saturday as elitist and out of touch. Trump will be in Detroit, “a city that has been left destitute by Democrat policies for decades,” said national press secretary Karoline Leavitt. “The only people who support Joe Biden’s failing campaign are elitist Hollywood celebrities who can’t relate to the suffering caused by Joe Biden’s inflation, immigration crisis and crime,” she said.

James Costos, the former U.S. ambassador the Spain and HBO executive, said that each event he has been involved with this cycle has over-performed. He co-hosted Biden’s first L.A. event this cycle at his home, as well as a recent event in Connecticut at the home of Richard Plepler, the former CEO of HBO.

“Every time Trump opens his mouth we raise more money,” Costos said via email, adding that the funds are being “strategically put to good work to build our ground games in the key states, as we have the advantage to bring more undecided folks and Republicans who abandoned Trump into our growing tent, while the Trump campaign is stagnated and shrinking.”

The campaign has two other major L.A. events coming up before the end of the quarter: Costos and partner Michael Smith also are co-hosting a debate night reception, with three Democratic governors: Andy Beshear of Kentucky, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.

The other is a June 29 Pride garden party with Vice President Kamala Harris, with co-hosts Rob and Michele Reiner, Costos and Smith, Chad Griffin and Charlie Joughin, Dustin Lance Black, Ted and Helen Boutrous, Michael and Donna Weinholtz and Yeardley Smith.

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